928 Broadway, nr. 22nd St.; 212-780-5100
He’s worked as a doorman at Studio 54, opened sushi and southwestern restaurants, and written The Men of the Pacific Street Social Club Cook Italian, an homage to his East New York childhood. But at Bar Stuzzichini, the new Flatiron-district trattoria, Gerard Renny is taking a backseat—officially, at least—to his wife, Carolyn, who’s not only the owner but the pastry chef. The rest of the primarily southern-Italian menu is in the capable hands of Paul Di Bari, whose Puglian and Neapolitan ancestry gives him a genetic advantage with dishes like short-rib braciole and mezze rigatoni with ragù, even if he has spent the past three years dishing up schnitzel and spaetzle at Wallsé. Stuzzichini, by the way, are the bite-size appetizers served at a marble-topped bar, where $22 platters contain one item from each of five categories (fritti, pesci, salumi, formaggi, and verdure). They’re the kind of snacks meant to accompany wine, which, at Bar Stuzzichini, is exclusively Italian and available by the bottle or quartino.
271 E. 10th St., nr. Ave. A; 212-533-5600
You’d never guess it by the name, the menu, or the atmospheric photos of tropical Havana displayed along the artfully weathered walls, but the owners of Bodeguita Cubana didn’t grow up in Cuba or even Miami. They hail, rather, from Serbia, as do many of their cohorts who’ve already made the just weeks-old café a bit of a hangout. No matter. With a soft breeze blowing through the open French windows and a boisterous crowd huddled around the rough-hewn bar as if they expected the impending liquor license (it’s BYO for now) to arrive at any moment, the place elicits a fairly transporting effect. The menu covers familiar ground, from sprightly, avocado-strewn salads to various pressed sandwiches including a passing Cubano, to a heaping if too chewy helping of ropa vieja, with no dish over $10. Coming soon: “Cuban pizza.”
Cecel Crepe Cafe
135 First Ave., nr. St. Marks Pl.; 212-460-5102
For Kaz Yokoi, who’s worked at Sushi of Gari and Payard Pâtisserie, the crêpe is a blank canvas, the perfect vehicle for expressing culinary creativity. At his tiny new East Village shop, he combines French and Japanese techniques, incorporating Asian ingredients like hijiki into his savory crêpes and red beans into his sweet ones. In addition to more-standard fruit and chocolate offerings, Yokoi has concocted one with tofu, Parmesan, and yuzu dressing, and another, the apple tatin, with apples, cinnamon, caramel sauce, and crunchy pie crust. Besides the unconventional fillings, though, what most distinguishes Cecel’s sweet crêpes from the French archetype is their signature pastry-cream filling and ice-cream-cone shape.